We'll have more to say on the governor's race in due course, and Friday night's "debate" (the Big Four, minus Libertarian James Werner) may serve at least to harden up the still volatile poll numbers. For the moment, it's worth emphasizing that with the incumbent currently polling somewhere in the 30% range, there's even less logic than usual to the excuse, "My vote doesn't count." Although on money and name ID, Rick Perry still has to be favored, there's no reason that in this wide-open race, one of the others can't stage an upset.
That's just one 1) reason to vote on Nov. 7. On the Travis Co. ballot there are many more; here are nine more of the most compelling:
2) Congressional Races: Because of the sad, tired conclusion to Republican re-redistricting, both Congressional District 21 and Congressional District 25 will be at the top of the ballot in open races that will require voters to select individual candidates (not straight ticket). Longtime Austin Rep. Lloyd Doggett is not likely to be threatened by his three lightly known opponents (Republican Grant Rostig, Libertarian Barbara Cunningham, and Independent Brian Parrett), but Congressional District 25 is heavily redrawn, and Dems need to turn out in large numbers to make a statement there. In Congressional District 21, San Antonio's Lamar Smith is now more deeply entrenched but with no fewer than six opponents, it's at least possible that Smith will be given a scare by the indefatigable Democrat John Courage with a heavy enough Austin Dem turnout. (In Congressional District 10, stretching from West Lake Hills to Houston, Dem Ted Ankrum is a longer shot against incumbent Michael McCaul and Libertarian Michael Badnarik.)
3) U.S. Senator: Speaking of indefatigable, Houston lawyer Barbara Radnofsky seems to be actually making a dent in incumbent Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's prim aura of invincibility. The Democrat is still very much a long shot that's all the more reason to turn out and make the race interesting.
4) Attorney General: Incumbent Greg Abbott has more money than sense, and Dem challenger David Van Os ... well, labor attorney Van Os is using the bully pulpit of a courthouse-to-courthouse campaign to try to revive a Democratic populist tradition of anti-corporate, pro-worker sentiment last represented at the Capitol by Jim Hightower (see p.25). Van Os can be a walking cliché he apparently thinks the epithet "silk-stocking!" retains 21st-century resonance but he's got more lively ebullience than anybody else on the ballot (including Kinky).
5) Supreme Court Justice, Place 2: Trumping both Radnofsky and Van Os, Dem challenger Bill Moody, an El Paso state district judge, is running his shoe-leather campaign on the real thing: walking across the state against Perry appointee (and corporate attorney) Don Willett. Moody is that increasingly curious thing: a court candidate with real judicial experience and the sole exception to the Democrats' otherwise failure to field Supreme Court opposition. We need it. There are also Libs on the list, if you're interested.
6) State Representative, District 47: If the Dems are to maintain the momentum generated by Donna Howard's spring upset of Ben Bentzin in District 48 (Howard now has only a Libertarian opponent), they need to ratify that victory with a push for upstart Valinda Bolton to replace Terry Keel in District 47. The GOP nominated the (relatively) moderate Bill Welch, and Bolton has her work cut out in this middling district. It will be close.
7) State Representative, District 50: This is another swing district, in which incumbent Rep. Mark Strama faces newcomer Jeff Fleece nominee of the state GOP establishment and Libertarian Jerry Chandler. Strama is among the new generation of Capitol Dems trying to establish a sustainable opposition with some real muscle. He should win, but he'll need turnout.
8) 3rd Court of Appeals: In the open Place 3 seat (vacated by retiring Justice Bea Ann Smith), Diane Henson, who narrowly lost to appointed Place 6 incumbent Bob Pemberton in 2004, should have a real shot to defeat Republican Will Wilson depending on turnout and down-ballot voter attention. Dem challengers in Place 5 (Mina Brees) and Place 6 (Bree Buchanan) have longer odds against incumbents David Puryear and Pemberton.
9) District Judge, 299th Judicial District: The Dem nominee and longtime criminal appeals judge, Democrat Charlie Baird, is among the most experienced, scholarly, and fairest judges in the state, with a particular expertise in the failings of the state's capital punishment system. He's running against Republican attorney Madeleine Connor, a Court of Criminal Appeals clerk with no judicial experience.
10) City of Austin Bond Propositions: If for no other reason, Austin voters need to turn out to determine their choices on propositions 1 through 7, the propositions that will determine the fate of nearly $570 million in general obligation bonds. The bonds will cover everything from street reconstruction, flood control, open-space acquisition, parkland, cultural facilities, a new central library, affordable housing, and public-safety facilities (even a new animal shelter). Whatever you think about future city priorities the bonds are very large reasons to vote.
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